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04.02.2010 Social News

Children being exploited as herdsmen in North-Tongu District

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Children being exploited as herdsmen in North-Tongu District

February 03, 2010
Adidome (VR), Feb. 3, GNA - Scores of boys are being exploited by cattle owners in several parts of the North-Tongu District in the Volta Region as they are denied formal education.

These children, mostly between the ages of 10 and 15 years, are engaged as herdsmen by cattle owners in places like Mafi-Akyeamfo, Mafi-Wute, Mawoekpor and Kpedzegblo, thereby being denied access to the Free Compulsory Basic Education (FCUBE).

The government launched the FCUBE in 1996 to provide unlimited opportunity to every Ghanaian child of school-age to have access to quality basic education.

And even though the FCUBE has been in operation since then, many wonder whether it is really operating in the North-Tongu District of the Volta Region.

Investigations by the GNA reveal that these young boys are made to serve their masters for a period of three years after which they are given a cow.

In most cases, however, GNA found that the children are short-changed as their masters sometimes fail to honour their part of the agreement after the three-year service.

The young boys are sometimes promised by their masters that their end of service benefit would be kept for them but the masters sometimes end up selling the cow.

An interview with some of these children revealed that most of them are forced into this service by their parents as a result of poverty, while some greedy parents force their children into it to make extra money.

The normal working day for these children starts early morning. One of them revealed that the latest time to set off from home is 0600 hours.

"This exposes us to all kinds of dangers such as bad weather, attacks from reptiles and wild animals and even people, whenever the cattle trespass on their farms," he said.

Unfortunately, out of a large number of young boys who engage in this kind of child labour, only a few get back to school.

And because these children do not start school as early as their other compatriots, their academic performance is badly affected, forcing them to drop out.

The District Chief Executive for the area, Alhaji Bubey Dzinadu, in an interview said he was aware of the problem and attributed it to the high poverty and illiteracy rates in the area.

He said the District Assembly, through sensitization programmes like community durbars, has been educating parents on the laws prohibiting child labour.

The DCE said the District Assembly in collaboration with the Social Welfare Department in the district had set up a pilot project called, "Morning School for Herdsmen (boys)" as one of the ways of addressing the problem.

He explained that the project sought to engage the services of teachers in some communities to teach some of these young boys before they set off to look after the cattle until they end their period of service.

"This is to avoid a situation where their masters would deny them their benefit if they are to stop working for them before their period of service ends."

The District Social Welfare Officer, Mr Daniel Anani, however, said the programme was no longer running due to financial constraints.

He said the District Assembly had stopped providing the financial support needed for the project, causing the teachers to withdraw from the programme.

Meanwhile, the young boys continue to be exploited and denied the benefits of formal education.

(A GNA feature by Enami Priscilla Agbozo)

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